In comics, change is constant. From power sets to a character’s status quo, comics are all about putting heroes in extreme situations and seeing how they fare. Throughout these trials and tribulations, it’s not uncommon for heroes to go through several costume changes.
In this series, we’ll be looking at the reasons behind some of our favorite heroes changing up their costumes, be it story driven or due to goings-on behind the scenes. We start with Marvel’s Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange.
Becoming the Master
Something many fans may not realize is that when Doctor Strange first appeared in the pages of Strange Tales #110, he was not yet the Sorcerer Supreme. Although a powerful sorcerer (his origins would not be revealed until #115), he had not yet acquired the Eye of Agamotto nor the Cloak of Levitation.
While not hugely removed from the classic look he would become known for, there are some notable differences. The amulet at his throat is not actually the famous Eye of Agomotto, but rather the Amulet of Agomotto. While the Amulet does appear and behave similarly to the Eye, it is not as all-powerful. The Amulet is also depicted as being rectangular from issue #115 on, clearly showing it to be different to the Eye. Also, Strange is not shown wearing a cloak until issue #114, and that cloak as blue rather than red. The design also differs from the Cloak of Levitation.
It is not until Strange Tales #127 that Strange is finally gifted with his two most famous accessories. Following a major battle with, and victory over, the Dread Dormammu, the Ancient One is proven right in his belief that Strange will follow in his footsteps as the Sorcerer Supreme. As such, the Ancient One gifts Strange with the Cloak (interestingly shown here as yellow) and Eye to aid him in is continuing battle against the various evils of the multiverse.
It is not until 1973, ten years after his debut, that Stephen becomes Sorcerer Supreme. In a battle with the inter-dimensional demon Shuma-Gorath, the Ancient One is slain. After his death, the Ancient One’s essence – which has become one with the universe – appears to Strange to tell him he is now Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme.
During a battle with Asmodeus, leader of the Sons of Satannish cult, Strange is caught in another dimension. Back on Earth, Asmodeus takes on Strange’s likeness in the hopes of fooling the Ancient One and stealing the Book of Vishanti for his own evil ends. Of course, Strange escapes the prison dimension and stops Asmodeus. But with his identity stolen, he creates a new guise for himself, one consisting of a blue bodysuit, complete with mask, and the Cloak of Levitation.
Behind the scenes, the folks at Marvel thought that it might be a good idea to pull the Doctor Strange title more in-line with their other superhero books. While they didn’t step too far away from Strange’s usual mystical outings, the new costume was an attempt to superhero-ise the sorcerer. It first appeared in 1969, but Strange reverted to his classic look by the 1970s.
Although he’d been around since 1972, the 1990 reboot of Ghost Rider (which saw Danny Ketch replace Johnny Blaze as the flame-headed Spirit of Vengeance) was a massive hit for Marvel. Due to this, Marvel decided to put together an Avengers-like team of their darker, supernatural-based heroes known as the Midnight Sons. Strange wasn’t part of the team initially, only joining them during the Siege of Darkness storyline, albeit not as fans had known him.
During this time Doctor Strange had exiled himself to a pocket dimension to recover after a particularly fierce battle. However, Stephen was able to project versions of himself into our world and creates two; one called Vincent Strange who represents his civilian self, and another, known merely as “Strange,” takes up the battle against evil. The Strange version of the good Doctor is not so good and, in true 90’s fashion, is more an antihero, as can be seen by the darker and grittier costume.
After having recovered from his battle wounds and ready to return to our own dimension, Stephen tries to call back the versions of himself that currently inhabit Earth, Vincent Strange and Strange. However, the “Strangers” rebel against the Doctor and a battle ensues. After the battle ends and Doctor Strange emerges from the pocket dimension, he is noticeably younger with longer hair and sporting a new, all-black costume. The Cloak of Levitation is now a coat, and due to his time spent in darkness, Stephen’s eyes have become weak to sunlight, and he must constantly wear sunglasses. You have to love the 90s.
This younger Doctor Strange debuted in 1995’s Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #75 but only lasted five issues, as by #81 Stephen was back to looking more like himself, although the Coat of Levitation remained and he sported a fancy new waistcoat.
Sorcerer Supreme No More
With the end of his third solo series in 1995, Doctor Strange appeared mostly in miniseries and as a supporting character while his costume returned to its classic look. After the events of the 2006 Civil War event, Doctor Strange joined the New Avengers. During this time he was forced to use dark magic to defeat The Hood. While Strange defeated the villain, he lost control and almost killed the Avengers. As such he denounced the title of Sorcerer Supreme, no longer feeling worthy of it. Thus, the Eye of Agomotto passed to Strange’s contemporary, Brother Voodoo.
Strange continued to fight with the Avengers and use his mystical abilities to protect the Earth. He now wore a black and red variation of his classic costume, albeit without the Cloak of Levitation or the Eye of Agomotto.
Eventually, Strange had to battle an enraged Daniel Drumm, brother of Brother Voodoo, who blamed Strange for Voodoo’s death. Drumm possessed each of the Avengers and forced them in turn to battle Strange. Strange bested each of his teammates before defeating Drumm himself. With this victory, Strange was reinstated as the Sorcerer Supreme once more, regaining the Cloak and Eye.
Back to the Classics
The good Doctor returned to his classic look in 2015 with his fourth solo series. Now into its fourth year, the series has seen Doctor Strange come up against all kinds of terrors and villains but has not as yet made a substantial change to his sorcerer’s garb. However, being one of the more unconventional heroes of the Marvel Universe, it wouldn’t surprise us at all if somewhere down the line Stephen Strange once again decided to conjure up some new threads.